Busy moms don’t have the time or energy to please everyone. It’s not right to you or the people you are trying to please. Always saying “Yes” (or no) will come back to bite you in the butt.

We oblige usually out of fear. Fear of offending, disappointing, or fear of causing conflict, ruining good opportunities, or looking like a meanie.

If you say “Yes” when you really wanted to say “No”, you will beat yourself up over it, get resentful, angry, stressed and drained. In the end, you will satisfy someone’s request half-heartedly and both you and the asker will be disappointed.

When you’re a mom, you’re bombarded with requests from both your personal and professional life.

Overtaxing yourself by obliging both sides will do harm, not good.  Your productivity will suffer tremendously, and your relationships will suffer too.

If you still struggle with this, think of it as important self-care practice. You know self-care is a necessary to maintain physical and mental health. Saying no to things you know will overwhelm and stress you are part of the self-care process.

You don’t want to say “No” all the time just as you don’t want to say “Yes” all the time. But, it’s important to have a balance that feels right for you.

I’ve created a handy list with examples of how to say “No” in a way that won’t hurt feelings, burn any bridges, or leave you feeling taken advantage of.

1.Use words other than no

Sometimes avoiding “No” can be more effective for people you know will be more sensitive to the word.

Example: “I can’t do this for you right now” or “I don’t have the time this week, but I’d be happy to discuss this next week when my schedule is less busy.”

2.Give yourself some time

Example: “Let me think about it”

This is good for you because you can get a more time to evaluate the request and good for the person requesting because you haven’t rejected them. It’s a simple and effect alternative to the flat out “No”

3.Being polite goes a long way

Thank them and show you appreciate their request.

Example: “Thank you for considering me, but I have to pass.” Or “This sounds interesting, thank you for thinking of me but I just don’t have any room in my schedule this month.” or “Thank you for asking, but I don’t think it’s appropriate for me right now.”

4.Suggest someone else

This is a good one because you’re not saying no, and you’re still helping the asker by offering a recommendation.

Example: “I’m unable to help you but I know someone who might be a better fit.”

5.Set boundaries

Sometimes people might forget that you are busy and assume you are waiting bright eyed and busy tailed for more work.

Example: “This is more than I can take on right now, but I can do this (what you can offer/take it or leave it) …”  “I have other commitments, but I can help you with (blank) when I have the time.”

6.Negotiate

Even if you aren’t swamped with work, it’s good to negotiate when someone is requesting something significant or even unreasonable. The goal is for both parties to benefit.

Example: “If you do (X) then I will be able to get (Y) done.” Or “Is it a priority? If it is, we can defer project Z by a week, and I would be able to get it done.”

7.Give a reason

Sometimes people just need to hear the reason. Be concise and don’t over-explain. 

Example: “I’m concerned with ____.” “I’m not comfortable with____.”

8.Provide options

Offer a couple of choices that work for you but are also favorable to the person asking. I recommend starting with approach #2- Give it some time to think about the request and what you can offer.

9.Don’t say Sorry say…

Example: “It’s a shame, I would love to help out, but I’m fully booked.”

Replacing “I’m sorry” with “It’s a shame” makes it appear less programmed and more sincere.

10.Empathy

Showing you understand the other persons needs will make hearing “No” easier.

Example: “I understand this means a lot to you and I wish I can do more but I’m already taking on more than I can handle.”

11.Make it obvious they are making you uncomfortable

Example: Sometimes saying “I’m uncomfortable with this…” or “This makes me uncomfortable…” is enough without having to say “No”

12.Address priorities

If a boss or manager gives you more work on top of an already full schedule. Ask them how they want to prioritize.

Example: “I’d be happy to do it, but I won’t be able to submit the report on Monday. Let me know what you want to prioritize.”

13.I’m booked!

Example: “I appreciate you thinking of me, but I’m booked for the next couple of weeks.”

14.Defer

Example: “Ask me later…” If it’s something you wouldn’t mind doing but just can do it right now, offer them to reattempt at a later time.

15.Show some gratitude

Example: “Thank you so much for thinking of me and I appreciate your support. I’m sorry I’m not able to help you at this time.”

16.Ask for options

Before deciding, ask for more options.

Example: “Those days don’t work for me, but I am interested. Can you send me some alternate dates?”

A Note on Saying “Yes”

Did you notice that some of these examples are “maybe” responses? It’s always a good idea to keep your options open regarding opportunity.

Yes, there will be times when you’re swamped and it’s appropriate to say “No”. If saying “No” becomes an automatic reflex, you can miss out on an opportunity that can help you grow personally and professionally.

Always ask for clarification and buy yourself some time to think about what’s requested so that you can make the best decision for you.

You’re a busy working mom who must choose her tasks and projects wisely. Know your limits and protect your boundaries but always be on the lookout for opportunities that help you thrive and grow as an individual.

Do you have any clever ways to say “No” or “Maybe”?
We would love to hear it! Share the wisdom and share it in the comments.

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2 Comments on 16 Guilt-Free Ways Working Moms Can Say “No” Without Feeling Bad

  1. I think it’s so important to say no sometimes, and these are great tips! I had to use the priorities question lately and it worked to determine what was deemed more important work by my manager at the time.

    Unfortunately later on he made the comment that I should really be completing all duties when backfilling, which is disappointing but it may be just time for me to start looking for new opportunities. I did ask to prioritize because I was drowning.

    • Kelli,

      Happy you found the tips useful! Questioning priorities is a good one and glad to hear it was effective!

      There are plenty of managers that will push to get maximum output because it’s in their job description.

      Sadly, this kind of push can ruin efficiency and quality of work. If you’re carrying an unreasonable amount of work for your scope, stand firm on prioritization.

      Be tenacious! 🙂

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